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Botswana union challenges leader’s unfair dismissal

15 April, 2019The unfair dismissal of Goleba Botshome, the general secretary of the Botswana Diamond Workers Union (BDWU), by Pluczenik Diamonds exposes the gross human and workers’ rights violations that are rampant in the diamond sector in Botswana.

The union is demanding her immediate reinstatement and an end to all of forms of victimization and union busting. Botshome, who has worked for the company for nine years, was dismissed in November 2018 on allegations of poor work performance and negligence, but she is challenging the dismissal in the Industrial Court in Gaborone.

She says the disciplinary process that she went through at Pluczenik is a sham. BDWU, an IndustriALL Global Union affiliate, adds that the decision is “unprocedural, harsh, vindictive and calculated to eliminate a staunch union leader.”

Pluczenik is funded by the US government agency, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation.

Diamond companies in Botswana are increasingly ignoring the labour laws and victimizing workers, but the BDWU is equally determined to confront them on malpractices. The union is campaigning for real wages in the diamond cutting and polishing sector and feels that workers are being excluded from enjoying the diamonds profits. It argues that only diamond companies and their shareholders, and the government enjoy the benefits at the workers’ expense. The union adds that training and localization policies meant to upskill workers are being implemented half-heartedly with expatriates still occupying top well-paying positions.

The companies are even failing on health and safety standards by not properly cleaning factory toilets, and not issuing of personal protective equipment to protect workers from dust, chemicals, and injuries.

On retrenchments, the union says workers are getting raw deals. For example, Eurostar Diamonds is left with only 70 workers from a previous workforce of over 500. The union expected government intervention to ensure saving jobs and fair retrenchments, but this did not happen. Precarious working conditions of short-term contracts are common even for workers with 10 years-experience at the same company. Further, freedom of association is being hindered when the union is ignored. Workers’ right to leave is being denied and doctors’ notes for sick leave ignored at diamond companies including KGK, Dalumi, Yerushalmi, Laurelton, Leoschter and Msuresh.

The IndustriALL director of mining, diamonds, gems, ornaments and jewellery production, Glen Mpufane, is shocked by the violations:

“We demand the immediate reinstatement of comrade Goleba and condemn the appalling impunity with which diamond companies are operating in Botswana. This is against national labour laws and the International Labour Organization Conventions. As a counter measure, the IndustriALL Global Diamond Network will launch a campaign to end the employers’ tyranny and anti-union behaviour.” 

These violations validate IndustriALL’s complaint to the ILO Committee of Application of Standards on the Botswana government’s violation of trade union rights in 2018.